Trapped in Banana Hell

19 04 2008

For people living in the banana regions of Costa Rica, the banana industry is practically the only option for work.  Many youths who have not graduated from high school begin working in the banana fields and continue to work on the plantations for the rest of their lives.  Because the plantations are owned by multinationals, like Del Monte in the United States, the local government does not see the tax revenues of the industry.  Due to a lack of funding and support, there is minimal investment in health, education, transportation and even electricity in the banana communities.

People working in the banana fields are usually driven to their work by a lack of economic choice.  They must work in the fields or let their families starve.  The majority of banana workers are made up of a migrant population that has been oppressed by a volatile combination of harsh government policies, insufficient income, and lack of opportunities.  They have been forced to leave their home countries and their farms due to a lack of livable income, only to find miserable conditions and mistreatment on the banana plantations.  The work conditions have caused the workers to feel a profound loss of their identity and an absence of sustainable life to call their own. 

The workers are suffering from an identity crisis.  They are simply numbers on the white board controlled by the inspectors.  They are nameless, replaceable, exploited, trapped, demeaned, guilty and impotent.  They are out of hope.  Mothers are making their children susceptible to illnesses caused by pesticides in an effort to put food on the table at night.  Husbands are so exhausted from 14-hours in the field that they have no energy for their wives.  Youth spend their days in the packing rooms, hidden away from social interaction and high school educations.  The banana plantations are all these people know.  Their entire lives are defined by an individual and collective sense of desperation.

Welcome to hell.

Day in and day out, this is their reality.

This is their home sweet home.

 

This is their final judgment.

This is their God, the oppressor.

Photos courtesy of Rhi Gutierrez

 

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